Homer called Odysseus πολύτροπος, which means both “much travelled” and “versatile” and thus seems to suggest a connection between travelling and behaving in a smart way. One year studying in the United States may be a bit less adventurous than Odysseus’ travels, but can be equally enriching through a combination of travelling and learning. Besides, getting a visa can be at least as complicated as getting past the Sirens.
The structure of academic working in the US is rather different from studying in St Andrews. Whereas the Scottish system demands a lot of independent studying, American modules are usually tightly structured, involve a high number of lectures, regular midterm exams, and weekly quizzes. While this certainly involves a lot of work, the high amount of coursework will also ensure that the final grades are rather predictable. Furthermore, it can be very enriching to see a different method of academic working. This is particularly relevant for students who consider postgraduate studies in the US, as a year abroad can give a good first impression of the American university system. At the universities that are part of the St Andrews Abroad Programme classicists often belong to the leading scholars in their field. As they are eager to meet their students during office hours, there are many opportunities to speak to them in individual meetings. Many universities in the US offer the liberal arts system for undergraduates, so that American students are required to take a broad variety of classes. Though exchange students have to focus on classes fitting to their degree in St Andrews, there still might be a possibility to explore a different academic area in one of the modules. In my case this was a module on American military history, a subject that was completely new for me. This was a great chance for me to learn more about the country I was living in and to profit from the unique opportunity of listening to a Professor who used to teach at the West Point Military Academy.
An important aspect of studying in the US is life at a campus university. In North Carolina, where I spent my year abroad, the weather is usually quite good, so that it is possible to do the reading for lectures on the lawn of the beautiful campus surrounded by old trees and typical buildings of the American South. If someone were to try that in St Andrews, it would certainly involve the danger of several frostbitten limbs. Sports events are another important part of campus life. At the University of North Carolina basketball is the most popular sport (Michael Jordan played college basketball there) and the game between UNC and Duke is regularly numbered amongst the greatest rivalries in sports along with El Clásico or Celtic versus Rangers.
Studying one year Classics in the United States is an experience that is both academically and personally enriching. It involves exploring new fields of study as well as exploring American culture for an entire year. After that a student surely is πολύτροπος – or at the very least able to make it past the visa counter.
– Robert Rohland, undergraduate student, University of St. Andrews